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North Penn slugs past Souderton, clinches SOL Continental title

North Penn’s Hunter Hamlin at bat during the Knights' game against Souderton on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

TOWAMENCIN >> It was a sunny, conference-clinching afternoon for North Penn, the Knights slugging their way to a six-inning, 13-3 victory over rival Souderton.

“We’re a steam engine,” said hard-hitting Billy Collins, who smacked two doubles, drove in a pair of runs, and at game’s end gave teammate Hunter Hamlin a piggyback ride back to the dugout in celebration. “We just keep getting better and better. Practice is helping, you work on little things, and we just keep improving as a team.

“You can never do your best until it shows at the end of the season, but we just gotta hope it all keeps going.”

North Penn raised its Suburban One League Continental Conference record to a perfect 10-0, capturing its second straight conference crown and fourth in the last five years.

“It feels awesome. Our offseason work payed off,” Collins said. “And now we brought it onto the field and it showed.”

Souderton’s David Gulibon is forced out at second as North Penn’s Zack Miles throws to first during their game on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Knights built a 3-1 lead by the third inning and broke it open in the fifth and sixth. North Penn batted around in the fifth and ended it in the sixth.

“Winning the conference title in this league is tough,” said Knights coach Kevin Manero. “I told the guys before the game that sometimes winning the conference title is one of the toughest things to do.

“You see teams twice, they know who you are. It gets to be a real dogfight when you get into this conference. So I’m very proud of the guys that they did that and now we have some more work to do to keep doing some more things.”

Breaking It Open

Collins got the Knights going in the fifth by cranking a double to the gap in right center, scoring Zack Miles.

Singles by Atlee Hasson, Hamlin, Rob Weiss and Tyler Siddal helped stretch what was a 3-1 lead to 9-1.

North Penn first baseman Billy Collins beats Souderton’s Luke Shank to the bag during their game on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“It was everybody in the lineup, top to bottom,” Collins said of a day in which nine different players scored and seven different players drove runs in for NP, “giving great at-bats, just seeing pitches well and driving them.

“We had all the momentum toward our side. We just kept finding our pitch and driving it gap to gap. That’s what we’ve been telling everyone since Day One.”

Collins added another double in the sixth, Ryan Bealer later singled, and Jake Drelick’s RBI double knocked in the last run to make it 13-3 and enforce the mercy rule.

“We have been doing a good job of staying in the strike zone and not swinging at balls,” Manero said. “(Souderton starter Jordan) Morales is a very tough, left-handed pitcher. The ball gets on you in a hurry, he’s got some really good stuff, but I thought we did a real good job of being patient.

“And we were able to get into the bullpen and capitalize a little bit.”

Souderton’s Ryan Dalton slides back safe to first base during the Indians’ game against North Penn on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Big Red Strikes First

Luke Shank’s RBI single provided Souderton a 1-0 lead in the first, but after that, North Penn starter Joe Valenti didn’t allow much, blanking Big Red in the next four frames.

During that stretch, Miles’ line-drive, RBI single to center helped power a three-run third that put NP ahead for good.

Said Manero: “Joe was big-time today. He threw all three pitches for strikes. He had a little bit of trouble early on with the breaking ball but he really made some good adjustments, kept guys off balance and used both parts of the plate. It was a very good, competitive start from him.”

The Indians (6-4 Continental) got a pair of hits from Ryan Dalton but some defensive miscues and wild pitches made the climb tougher for Big Red.

“(North Penn’s) a good team. You have to step up and get ready to play them, and once they scored a couple runs, we hung our heads and didn’t perform,” Indians coach Mike Childs said. “I told the guys, ‘if we wanna be a playoff-caliber team, we gotta step up against teams like this.’”

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